Patients taking interferon-beta, a drug for multiple sclerosis (MS), received almost three times as much vitamin D from sun exposure than those not taking the treatment, say new findings. MS is an autoimmune disease that damages the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). There is currently no cure, but treatments are available to ease some of the symptoms.
MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells. This damage causes the nerve signals to slow down or cease. Inflammation occurs when the body’s own immune cells attack the nervous system. This can affect any area of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord, journal Neurology reports. This observational analysis by the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, based on data from 178 MS patients, suggests that one of the main treatments for MS may also increase the amount of vitamin D patients receive from sun exposure. Around 60 percent of MS patients are treated with interferon-beta. Derived from a naturally-occurring component of the human immune system, the drug has been found to reduce the frequency of relapse and other specific symptoms of MS, according to a statement of Menzies Institute.
Steve Simpson Jr, who co-authored the study with Niall Stewart from Menzies, said the findings suggest that part of the therapeutic effects of interferon-beta on MS may be through its effects on vitamin D, since it has the ability to reduce inflammatory pathways in the immune system. ”Not only did we find that persons taking interferon-beta had higher vitamin D levels than those not taking it, we also found that this increase in vitamin D was due to an enhancement of the association between sun and vitamin D, with persons on interferon-beta having nearly three-times as much vitamin D from similar amounts of sun exposure to those not taking interferon-beta,” Simpson said.
“We have previously shown persons with MS with higher vitamin D levels had lower numbers of relapses. In this analysis, however, we found that vitamin D was only associated with reduced risk of relapse among those using interferon-beta,” said Simpson.